Thousands in Brazil rally in support of candidate Bolsonaro

Presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party flashes thumbs up to supporters after voting at a polling station in Rio de Janeiro Brazil Sunday Oct. 7 2018

Women and left-wing militants held protests across the country against the right-wing presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro.

Later on Friday, Brazil's top electoral court TSE approved opening a probe into the case.

The Workers Party contends the reported contracts to attack it on WhatsApp amount to illegal financing of Bolsonaro's campaign and has lodged a formal complaint with the electoral tribunal.

Bolsonaro, a seven-term congressman from a tiny party, had little access to public campaign funding or TV advertising, but his grass-roots campaign and outsized presence on social media helped him win 46 percent of the vote, almost forgoing a runoff. While platforms like Facebook and Twitter are easier to police, WhatsApp users exchange information directly over an encrypted network.

WhatsApp said it takes the allegations seriously and is "taking immediate legal action to stop companies from sending bulk messages", including cease-and-desist letters to the companies in question.

The day before, WhatsApp said it had banned hundreds of thousands of accounts during the election period, with spam detection technology spotting accounts engaged in automated "bot" behaviour.

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"There are no limits to this persecution", Bolsonaro, a newly-elected senator and a key member of his father's campaign, wrote.

It remains unclear whether the accusations have had any bearing on opinion polls. One of those accounts belongs to Bolsonaro's son, although the ban has since been lifted.

WhatsApp confirmed that it had blocked Flavio Bolsonaro's account for "spam behaviour" in recent days, for reasons unrelated to the Folha report.

Since then, however, the allegations appear to have energized Haddad's campaign. The latest Datafolha survey, taken before the story was published, showed Bolsonaro had 59 per cent of voter support, compared to 41 per cent for Haddad. Several political parties, including Haddad's Workers' Party, are jointly requesting that Bolsonaro be declared ineligible for 8 years for abuse of economic power and misuse of digital communication.

Haddad now alleges that businessmen supporting Bolsonaro have been paying to bombard voters with misleading propaganda in violation of electoral law, which his rival denies.

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